Mountaineer Spotlight: Head, Heart, Hands, Health and headed for success

Alexis Zilinski’s childhood spent participating in 4-H programs instilled in her a passion for learning, civic engagement and community service.

4-H, America’s largest youth development program, focuses on developing youth to become productive citizens able to effect change in their communities through a focus on the four “Hs” of head, heart, hands and health. Moreover, as a recent Tech grad, the entrepreneurial experience and business management skills Zilinski honed in college have prepared her to take on her role as Program Assistant for the Raleigh County Branch of the WVU Extension program.

Ghent-native and Shady Spring graduate Zilinski was an involved Golden Bear student from the start, attending Tech on a track scholarship and cheering. She graduated in May 2023, majoring in business management, with minors in marketing, entrepreneurship and sociology.

It was in Zilinski’s business management courses, taught by Professor KyungMoon Kim, where she began to find her niche at Tech. With the encouragement of Professor Kim, she joined the Tech Entrepreneurship Club (serving as President) and participated in the “March Idea Challenge” at WVU, a competition where student organizations pitch solutions for organizational issues for the chance to be awarded up to $5000 by a panel of professional judges.

During the 2023 event, the WVU Tech Entrepreneurship Club was awarded $2000 for their pitch idea to create a cultural lounge on campus. In addition to an unforgettable team-building experience of presenting the pitch idea with her fellow club members, Zilinski also credits the pitch competition with making her a polished public speaker able to present in front of audiences.

Professor Kim encouraged Alexis to take on her role in the Entrepreneurship Club because of the entrepreneurial spirit he saw in her.

“She’s innovative and takes risks,” he added.

Innovation and open-mindedness are keys, Kim believes, to successful entrepreneurship, especially in the Beckley area. One goal he has is to “create opportunities and bring more ideas from other cultures” to the people in the area – a concept that began with the Entrepreneurship Club’s winning content idea, the cultural lounge on Tech’s campus.

Now a Tech graduate, Alexis continues to serve her community as a Raleigh County 4-H Program Assistant. For the girl who grew up loving 4-H camp turned college student taking on leadership roles, this job has been a perfect fit. The community projects of Raleigh County Extension play to Alexis’s strengths and 4-H experience.

Earlier this year, Alexis and her coworkers in the Raleigh County office participated in a program to provide West Virginia-grown fruits and vegetables to all students in Raleigh County. The program, called Pop-Up Market, was created by Teresa Baker, the Director of Child Nutrition for Raleigh County Schools, with help from Susan Lilly, Youth Nutrition Outreach Instructor (NOI) for WVU Extension through a grant. This is just one of many programs Alexis and the Extension department provide to improve their Raleigh County community.

Zilinski’s advice to current and future Golden Bears on how to make the most of their Tech experience like she did: “Participate in the activities Tech offers. Make the most of everything. Go and meet new people.” 

And, when it comes time to graduate and go out into the job world, keeping in mind the values learned as a child in 4-H, there are always ways to stay engaged and give back.

Adds Zilinski, “There are rewarding jobs out there, you just have to look for them.”

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